Gender and Religion

As was previously noted, Israel defines itself as a "Jewish State," referring to both the national and the religious facets of Jewish identity. The fact that Jewish law is incorporated into state law lends great influence to the views of the rabbinical apparatus, which controls all personal legal status—from birth to death. In Jewish religious courts, children, retarded individuals, and women are not considered competent witnesses. It is worth noting that the elaborate state rabbinical system, and the Minister of Religious Affairs, and political appointments in the Ministry of Religious Affairs have been manned solely by men (Swirski & Safir, 1993).

In fact, the religious establishment's rejection of the concept of gender equality is one of the major reasons why Israel does not, to this day, have a constitution. Maintaining the status quo between the religious and secular segments of Israeli society has been deemed more important then signing a binding constitution declaring that women are men's equals in every sense (Raday, 1993a).

This interaction between contemporary ideas and age-old traditions is also evident in the lives of the vast majority of Israelis, who do not define themselves as religious (Levi et al., 2000). Even in the relatively secular portion of society it is the norm, during the High Holidays, to attend prayer services at Orthodox synagogues (which receive state funding, unlike the small number of Reform and Conservative synagogues in Israel). Only men can actively participate in these prayer services as well as perform the Kadish prayer for the dead. In addition, men's daily morning prayer includes the Hebrew phrase Barukh shelo assani isha ("Blessed is God for not creating me a woman"). In these Orthodox synagogues, women are hidden from men's sight and are excluded from praying aloud, so that they do not distract the men. Even in the traditional Orthodox wedding ceremony, the woman is not an active but a silent participant.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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